And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
For those of us consistently amazed by new technological advances such that we're contstantly exclaiming, "What will they think of next?!" with enthusiasm and anticipation, a recent trip to the local Dollar Tree heralded yet another fascinating discovery: Forkless Gourmet Bun Meals. Packed two to a box and featuring a variety of fillings, including pork and vegetables with with five fortune BBQ sauce, chipotle chicken, and even kung pao shrimp, these "authentic ethnic meals in a bun" boast not only "microwave convenience" and "balanced nutrition", but claim to be "perfect for the way you eat today." See, it says so right on the box:
Admittedly, it's kind of a creepy note, given that the engineering of these bun meals implies that its inventors possess intimate knowledge of the details of your life and the way you eat -- otherwise, how could they have created it with those things in mind? -- but at least their top-secret alien bread recipe ensures that the buns come out of the microwave warm and tender every single fucking time. Still, even if omniscient extraterrestrial life forms are responsible for the genesis of these fist-sized meals, one has to remain at least a little skeptical. I mean, I bought these things at the dollar store! Given some of the other offerings we've seen from said dollar store (cf. Best Friend Colton, Whitehall sandwich slices), that alone is enough to warrant incredulity on one's part, but these babies were found in the dollar store's freezer. Coupled with the clandestine origins of the bun meal itself, the chilling facts regarding its earthly location clearly necessitate that one proceed with nothing less than extreme caution.
For today's review, then, we'll be sampling the Forkless Gourmet's Kung Pao Shrimp Bun Meal. According to the blurb on the back of the box, this hot asian style offering features bold flavors derived from a filling of high quality shrimp and peanuts with flavorful carrots, celery, and sweet red peppers in their authentic signature Kung Pao Sauce. Sure, it sounds pretty damned good, but then again boldface type and biased descriptive writing tend to have that effect -- so let's find out if the bun meal makes good on its claims. A taste test is in order! R U E? Big Bull and Linda sure are!
So there's the bun, freed of its plastic wrapping and set in the center of the plate. As you can see from its juxtaposition with Big Bull and Linda, who stand roughly 5" and 4" respectively, the bun is, as the snippet on the box suggested, just about the appropriate size for one-handed consumption. In fact, given that there are two of them per box, I have no problem at all picturing some stingy individual strolling down the street with a bun in each hand and stubbornly refusing to share with even his or her best friend, thus prompting said friend to devise a number of simultaneously clever and dopey schemes in order to steal a meal, only to be caught at the last minute as the greedy person comically shouts, "BARNEY, MY BUN MEAL!" and chases the thieving friend off into the distance as a disembodied voice divulges the product's nutritional information to the confused and amused onlookers. And speaking of the nutritional info, here it is! With 320 calories, 1/4 of which come from fat, the bun's not going to turn you into a walrus anytime soon, and with 2g of fiber and 12g of protein you could do a lot worse as far as microwaveable meals go. And it's topped off with sesame seeds to boot! However, the advice that the mothers of ugly teenage girls tell their daughters to bolster their self esteem after their compact mirrors cry out, "HOLY HELL, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!" and commit suicide for the umpteenth time by shattering themselves when faced with the girls' hideous countenances -- "It's not what's on the outside that matters -- it's the inside that counts" -- also holds true for bun meals, so let's cut this sucker open and see what horrors lurk within its sheath of tender alien bread.
As expected, the actual bun is a whole lot less jam-packed than the depiction on the front of the package, but it's not bad for a 50 cent meal. I mean, there are shrimp in there! Precious few, but still. EASTER SHRIMP! And now for the really important part -- the taste. Let me preface my assessment by saying that I'm probably not the best person to gauge the authenticity of the Kung Pao Shrimp Bun Meal's flavor, given that I can't recall ever having had kung pao shrimp that wasn't served up in a tender microwaveable bun topped with sesame seeds. However, according to what I've been able to ascertain from a Google search for the contents of the dish and the expert opinion of correspondent Stan, the bun's ingredients are more/less accurate.
So yeah, the taste. Pretty damned good, but not without caveats. As I noted above, there were hardly any actual shrimp in the thing -- I actually got through the right half above and wondered if I'd opened the wrong box, since I didn't taste a single shrimp therein. After taking a bite of the left half that did, in fact, yield a familiar shrimpy taste, I opted to explore the contents of the remaining piece to see if I could find any more shrimp -- whereupon I discovered two shrimp within view. Plus the one I'd already eaten, that makes for three shrimp total in this particular bun. However, since my bun could have been a dud, the thing was only 50 cents, and eating it didn't cause my innards to melt, bubble up, and gush from my nose, I won't dock the Forkless Gourmet too many points for the lack of shrimp. As far as the other categories are concerned, the bun was great! The bread was indeed warm and tender; the flavors were, if not properly bold, quite formidably pronounced; and the water chestnuts within (of which, in all honesty, there seemed to be more of than carrots, celery, or red peppers, not that I minded) gave the bun's innards a pleasantly soft-yet-slightly-crunchy texture. And where they were present, the shrimp tasted excellent! The only other thing I'd note is the misleading nature of the box's claim that the bun is of some kind of "hot asian style". Maybe I just do well with certain hot things (most foods are okay, but those fireball jawbreakers fuck me up every time), but I didn't think the bun was very hot at all -- certainly not hot enough to warrant an illustration of not one, not two, but three jalapenos. Those fuckers are hella potent.
So while not perfect, per se, the Forkless Gourmet Kung Pao Shrimp Bun was definitely a satisfying meal and would be worth twice the $1 price of admission. In fact, judging from this first offering, I'd say that they're superior to Hot Pockets (which I also like), and those things go for almost $4 per double-packed box. Besides, the Forkless Gourmet offerings are ethnic meals in a bun -- and even if they weren't so tasty, that's an interesting concept and a pretty catchy advertising slogan to boot. However, while the kung pao shrimp offering gets the Scary-Crayon Seal of Approval, we can't speak for the other varieties. YET, that is. More Forkless Gourmet reviews are on the way, so stay tuned! But not tuned like a fork. Because these bun meals don't require forks! HAH!! ;)
-- Wes --
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